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INTERVIEWS BY STEVE KELEMEN
Here it is! An interview with both Jimmy Stayton and his long time friend/guitarist, Morton Marker.
Like many of their counterparts, they are held in high esteem the world over.
Listening to 'Hot Hot Mama' and 'You're Gonna Treat Me Right' will tell you that the reverence they hold is well deserved.
I was born August 4, 1939 in Milford , Delaware . My grandfather gave me my first guitar. It was from Sears and I think it cost $10 or $12 dollars.
The frets were so far apart, it made my fingers bleed, but I loved it.
Country music is my first love. Hank Williams has been an idol since I was 9.
I got a book and learned how to play. Morton also helped me learn. Most of the music in those days was either country, swing, big band or maybe some jazz. I know I didn't think there was much of a choice.
I first heard Elvis/Rockabilly during a trip to Virginia . This was late 1954 while I was visiting my sister. I went into a record shop in Norfolk , Virginia and asked if they had "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" ( which I first heard on a jukebox on the ferry trip ). The owner said that they didn't have it so I told him ‘To Get On It' because Elvis was going be the biggest thing ever ! After that they started to carry his Sun singles.
I was the first to perform Rockabilly in Delaware . My band was instantly popular. One of the very first places we played was the Milford Canteen. It would always be packed. Wall-to-wall teenagers. They'd never heard rockabilly before and they loved it.
We also played shows in Frederica, Smyrna and Camden. All over Delaware. We had a regular spot at the Rehoboth Roller Rink – just dropping them dead with our rockabilly. If it was out on record, we played it. Our original material and our covers went over real well with the kids.
I traveled all over the East Coast too. Playing parks, State fairs, dance halls, nightclubs etc.
It was me, Morty and Patsy Saunders (passed away early 70's) from Woodside , Delaware . She took over from our first drummer. We had no regular full time bass player, just pick ups.
BLUE HEN RECORDS
"Hot Hot Mama" b/w "Why Do You Treat Me This Way" was recorded at WDOC Radio Station in Salisbury, Maryland.
"You're Gonna Treat Me Right" b/w "Midnight Blues" was recorded in Baltimore, Maryland.
We used a studio musician to fill in on bass for both Blue Hen sessions. Only those four songs were cut. No alternates or other songs.
I bought both Blue Hen & Del Ray Records in 1961.
I enlisted in the Army in 1958, served in Germany and married a German girl. I moved to California to go to college on the G.I. Bill.
But I still had the music bug. Before long, at the urging of another Delawarean – Robert Mitchum – I signed a recording contact with 20th Century Fox. My first big record, released nationally, featured "More Than You'll Ever Know" b/w "Losers Can't Win".
Then after awhile, one day I just didn't want to do it anymore. I came back to Delaware and went to work as sales manager for WKEN Radio in Dover . I was there for 15 years.
When I first came back, I had an afternoon DJ show too. I also had a band called the Country Sounds and I went back to performing country music.
1968 was the year I wrote "The Ballad of Herman Brown as a campaign song, he was seeking the Republican nomination that year.
Blue Hen 220
Hot Hot Mama / Why Do You Treat Me This Way
Blue Hen 224
You're Gonna Treat Me Right / Midnight Blues
The Hep Old Frog / The Only One (for me)
20th Fox 310
More Than You'll Ever Know / Loser Can't Win
*20th Fox 310 issued as James H. Stayton
Coming soon on Knock Out Records
Jimmy Stayton with Mort Marker – "Hot Hot Mama"
Will include vintage un-issued material.
MORT MARKER "THE GUITAR MAN"
I was born on August 3rd, 1937, in Dover, Delaware. I started playing guitar (I am self-taught) at age 12, and playing in country bands at 13. My first guitar hero was Chet Atkins. When Elvis and rockabilly came in I heard Scotty Moore and I was converted.
I met Jimmy in 1955 in Dover, Delaware. My sister and I had a group and played a talent show in Dover .
Jimmy was on the same show. I played guitar for him. I think we came in second place. The guy that won was a Korean War Vet. He wore his military uniform for his performance. We always thought that's why he won. Jimmy was a much better singer.
From the first time we met Jimmy and I became life-time friends. I taught him some guitar and we started our band. We began playing country music and Jimmy was an exceptional country singer.
Jimmy went to see his sister in Va. and heard Elvis's first Sun record. We went from playing country music to rockabilly after that. I was a big fan of Chet Atkins so what Scotty Moore was doing was right up my alley. We switched over and rode the big wave for another 3 years. We played a lot of places in PA, MD, DE, NJ and VA. This is around the time we met Faron Young. One night, after we finished our show, Faron came back stage and said to Jimmy, ‘You just did my show and you sounded just like me'. He wasn't mad, I think he was impressed by Jimmy's ability to imitate him. The highest form of flattery. Jimmy and Faron remained friends through out the years.
BLUE HEN RECORDS
Blue Hen Records was run by Sam Short in Harrington, DE. He owned a grocery store and ran the label out of a part of the store. He sold our records out of a shoebox over the counter.
Jimmy met Sam in late 1955 or early 1956. I don't know all of the details but Jimmy said we were going to record with Blue Hen Records. I had never heard of Blue Hen Records. Who cared, we were going to record!!
Here we were, 2 young clueless kids, Jimmy, 15 years of age and I was the old man of the group, barley 19.
We went to Salisbury , MD. WBOC TV station. They had a small studio that Sam had rented. We had to join the musician union Local 42. I still have my card to this day.
No words to describe the moment we stepped into a real studio, stars in our eyes and hopes for the future in front of us. We recorded "Hot Hot Mama" b/w "Why Do You Treat Me This Way". Jimmy Stayton & The Country Cats were headed for the big time. Wow!!! Life couldn't get better. We already had a following in a 3 state radius but when our records came out – we were a hit.
A few months later Jimmy wanted to do another record for Blue Hen. We had new songs we had written and eager to record.
Jimmy found a studio in Baltimore, MD. It was reminiscent of the Sun Studio in Memphis . Not a big studio but the same type of recording equipment, the same technique for getting the echo using two recording machines. Finally, this was the sound we were looking for.
Jimmy and myself along with my wife and her sister rode in my 1950 Mercury to the session. We almost were hit by another car and were late for our session. But we made it and were very excited about the sound that we were able to create.
Our band was also making changes. While playing at the famous " Sunset Park " in Westgrove , PA we found a upright bass player, who played a lot like Bill Black. He volunteered to play on our session. There were no drums.
We broke new ground once again hiring a lady drummer. Not many of those around even today. Jimmy paid for the session. I believe that Sam leased the master from Jimmy. Both songs received a 4 Star rating in Billboard Magazine. That was the top of the hill. The review read: "These two songs sound more like Elvis, then Elvis".
Our "lady drummer", Patsy Saunders joined us sometime between the first and second record.
Along came Patsy, and she had the sound that our group needed. A wonderful lady, and a great drummer. She stayed with us until Jimmy went into the army. Later on worked in my band.
I can't tell you much more about Patsy. Jimmy and her were an ‘item' at the time. We all loved her. When she came on the stage to play she was dynamite ! She could play any rhythm on any song, any style of music.
We didn't have a bass player so with my guitar I played a combination of bass runs and melody.
MORTY MARKER AND THE IMPALAS
After Jimmy went into the Army, I started my own band "Morty Marker & The Impalas".
We made some demos at Audio Services Co. – "Tear Down The House", "Affection", Boppity Bop Bop" & "Tell Me You Love Me". I wrote all four songs. Two of which became the first single for BackBeat Records, Houston, Texas.
BACKBEAT RECORDS 1958
Don Robey called and set up a session at Bradley Studios in Nashville . It was produced by Owen Bradley. We used session players. Hank Garland on guitar, Bob Moore on Bass, Marvin Hughes on piano and The Jordenairs on back vocals. I played my 1956 Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 guitar and sang vocals. Three hour session and we were out of there.
Robey paid us for expenses, it was almost unheard of at that time.
The record was released November of 1958. We did two television shows to kick the record off. The Buddy Deane Show in Baltimore & The Milt Grant Show in Washington , DC .
We made the top 40 playlists in 3 states and so we got lots of work.
By 1960 things were changing in music and so was I. I got into other types of music. I did played guitar in Wanda Jackson's road band.
In 1964 I moved to Los Angeles, California. Jimmy was already there. I went into the studio with him and did guitar tracks for his demos.
In 1965 I met Al Casey and we became friends. Al said I could do some sessions. I started doing demos and moved into real session work. My first big session was with Gary Puckett and The Union Gap. At this time Hollywood was a gold mine – recording studios everywhere.
I also did live TV shows; Sonny & Cher , Hudson Brothers, Smothers Brothers, John Davidson and a few others.
One day I got a call from Al Casey to do some work on the "Comeback Special" at NBC Studios in Burbank . I am not documented, and in reality I filled in for Al. It didn't matter to me. I was just glad to be in the same room with Elvis and Scotty Moore. It was a rehearsal for Elvis to loosen up – very informal – just kicking around songs etc.
Elvis came into the studio where we were running charts etc. The songs were mostly the 50s hits like ‘Blue Suede Shoes'. We worked for a few hours. I used my Gibson L5 on this project. I bought a Gibson L5 in 1959, just like Scotty's. This will give you an idea of how big a fan of his I am.
Anyways, after we were done with jamming, Don Randi ( band leader ) told me that Elvis really liked what I did on my guitar. I was just playing Scotty Moore all the way.
Elvis did in fact make a comment during the rehearsal. While we were performing ‘Heartbreak Hotel', Elvis was right in front of us and then he turned and said to me, "that's it, that's it". He seemed really excited with my playing Scotty Moore licks.
I was in awe of Elvis and Scotty so I never said anything. I never told anyone for years that I played for Elvis, fearing they would laugh and not believe me.
And I finally got to meet my idol at the live taping of the '68 Comeback.
Col.Parker asked Don Randi if we could play some music for the audience coming in for the show. While I was playing I spotted Scotty walking over to where we were, and I started chatting with him. Scotty was trying to find his amp.
THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS SESSION
I got a call from producer Billy Strange to do work for a soundtrack session. When I got to the United Artist Recorders on Sunset Blvd. there was a security check – Billy did not tell me this was an Elvis session – so I was thinking it must be someone big. But once I got into the studio I knew it was for Elvis. I used my Gibson L5 and a Fender Telecaster.
The session was really loose, Elvis was in a great mood – cutting jokes. There wasn't as much pressure as on the "Comeback Special".
During a break, Elvis came over and chatted with us. He invited us to help ourselves to the food – they brought in a catering truck – located in the back of the studio.
Unlike other sessions, you never forgot working with him.
Pictures weren't allowed on any Elvis project, so I am sorry to say I have non.
In 1990 I met a lady who was an entertainer and did Las Vegas type shows. She was married to a famous politician who was connected to the Kennedy's, as well as President Carter.
Her name is Mrs.Unruh. After her husband passed away she moved to Mt.Baldy and opened Mrs.Unruh Buckhorn Bar & Restaurant. Her first year she went thru 65 bands. Then she and I met through a phone call, I came up with my band and we were hired on the spot. We became the houseband – The Buckhorn Boys. It was magic from our first night and we have been performing there ever since. 14 years now. We have a new cd which will be released soon (produced by Bob Summers).
And as Ralph Edwards used to say...."This Is Your Life".
That's my story and I'm still pickin'
The "Guitar Man" – Mort Marker
Page Posted June, 13 -- ©Rockabilly Hall of Fame®